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Script 68.3

Notes to broadcasters

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Like many of the scripts in this package, the following story is based on an actual farmer innovation. It demonstrates how creative farmers can find solutions to local problems without intervention from government, agricultural experts or environment workers. While the technique as outlined in the script might not be exactly appropriate for the farmers in your listening audience, it could provide the inspiration for farmers to adapt the method to suit local climate and growing conditions, or to look at new ways to rehabilitate their land. This program requires two voices. The farmer’s name, country, and species of trees and grasses should be changed so that they are locally relevant. Invite your audience to share other innovative ways to grow trees and grasses on eroded land.

Script

Characters

Host

Ndugu Yobani:
farmer
INTRO

HOST
-Today we continue our series on farmer innovation and success stories from around the world with a program that will hopefully provide some inspiration to help you put nutrients back in your soil. Have you noticed that your land is not producing as much as it used to? Do you see that wind and rain are washing away your soil? Are you worried about growing enough food for your family? Have you noticed that useful wild trees are disappearing? Farmers need practical examples of techniques that they can use or adapt to save their soil, improve its fertility and conserve useful wild plants.

The story you’re about to hear shows how creative farmers can find solutions to local problems without help from government or agricultural experts. But it’s not just a story about making barren land productive again. It’s also a special kind of inspiration. Youcouba Sawadogo is a farmer from Burkina Faso in Africa who successfully revegetated his land by planting trees in traditional planting pits called “zai.” [Note: pronunciation rhymes with ‘high’]. Zai are now recognized as the most cost- and time-efficient method for rehabilitating degraded land in this area of West Africa. With us today is my guest, Mr. Ndugu Yobani. Mr. Yobani is here to tell us what happened when he tried Farmer Sawadogo’s method for regenerating his land. Welcome Mr. Yobani.

NDUGU YOBANI
-It’s a pleasure to be here.

Host
-Let’s start right in. Please begin by telling us why you began planting in pits.

NDUGU YOBANI
-I have three children and many other relatives living with me. We have a small farm in a very dry part of the country. The soil is being swept away by wind and rain. Our harvests have been poor. We’ve lost most of the plant cover including the wild trees we used to harvest for fruit and fodder. My land became so worn out that I couldn’t grow enough food to feed my family. I had to do something to bring the land back to life.

HOST
-How did you know about planting in zai?

NDUGU YOBANI
-I heard stories around the village about a man named Yacouba Sawadogo who had great success in making barren land green again. People told me that he began planting crops in zai holes over 20 years ago. At first, he just wanted to produce more grain, especially sorghum and millet. He found that his yields were better when he made the pits wide and deep and added manure to them. And eventually he was able to grow enough food to feed his family.

HOST
-Then he discovered that many tree seedlings also started to grow in the pits. How did the seeds get there?

NDUGU YOBANI
-Some were washed into the pits by the rain. Some were in the manure he put in the pits. When Mr. Sawadogo saw the seedlings growing, he decided to protect them. When he harvested the millet, he cut the stalks at about waist level. The part of the stalk that was left in the ground protected the young trees from the grazing animals.

HOST
-Mr. Sawadogo took it a step further and even started his own land regeneration project, didn’t he?

NDUGU YOBANI
-Yes. He collected seeds of many wild fruit and fodder trees, and planted them in pits in the wet season. He even started to grow fodder grasses like Gamba grass in the pits.

HOST
-What a wonderful and simple idea. Of course, it took a long time, but now – on land that nobody wanted because it was so poor – he has a 12-hectare forest!

NDUGU YOBANI
-Yes, people say that he has nearly sixty species of trees and grasses growing on that land. When I heard this, I thought planting in zai holes was worth a try. So a few years ago, during the dry season, I dug pits and put manure and crop residues in each pit and left it all to become compost. It seemed best to start like Mr Sawadogo did – with cereals. So, when the rains came, I sowed a few grains in each hole.

HOST
-What happened?

NDUGU YOBANI
-Good news! My crops grew better and yielded more, because the rain collected in the planting pits and also the manure was concentrated there, directly where the plants were growing. It’s the best possible way to use the little manure that we have, and I don’t need to spend money for fertilizer in the bag.

HOST
-But then you also started planting trees in the zai holes?

NDUGU YOBANI
-Yes, like Mr. Sawadogo, I wanted to bring some of the useful trees back to the land. I collected and planted neem seeds. And yellow plum began growing in my planting pits, too. So I cared for these trees and then I collected more tree seeds and grasses and planted them in the pits. Now I have ten species of trees and grasses on my land!

HOST
-That sounds impressive. Tell us how your family has benefited from this?

NDUGU YOBANI
-Well, now I grow enough food to feed my family. And my wife is very happy to have trees in our fields because she doesn’t have to walk so far to collect firewood. If you don’t lop too much, the branches grow back again.

HOST
-Is there anything else you’d like to share with us today?

NDUGU YOBANI
-Yes, spread the word to other farmers! I also want to thank Mr. Sawadogo for his efforts in saving the land, and for providing an example for people like me to follow.

HOST
-And thank you, Mr. Ndugu, for sharing your success with us today.

MUSICAL BREAK.
EXTRO

HOST
-Mr. Yobani was able to make his land fertile again by following Mr. Sawadogo’s example of planting in zai holes. Zai planting is a simple and low-cost way to put nutrients back into the soil and return some disappearing trees to your farm. Sometimes, simple observations – such as how nutrients and water concentrate in one place – can lead to new ways of growing trees and other crops. We must thank Mr. Sawadogo for taking the time to experiment with zai on his farm, and for sharing his success so that farmers like Mr. Ndugu can also benefit.

Acknowledgements

Contributed by Belinda Bruce, Vancouver, Canada.

Reviewed by Ann Waters-Bayer and Chesha Wettasinha, ETC Ecoculture, The Netherlands.

Information Sources

Reij, Chris, and Ann Waters-Bayer, eds. Farmer innovation in Africa: a source of inspiration for agricultural development. London: Earthscan Publications, 2001. Earthscan Publications, 120 Pentonville Road, London, N1 9JN, UK. URL: www.earthscan.co.uk